Has anyone seen anything like this before?
You'll see the organic outreach and growth in the graph, then suddenly BAM… site hit with thousands of spam links… then whoever sent them dropped them a couple months later.
The links initially did not tank ranking. But when the links were all suddenly removed at once, it instantly tanked the site's ranking. Continued outreach and links are not helping despite previously dominating for same keyword prior to hit.
Google's official position (and Ahrefs) is that the algo is advanced enough to make Negative SEO irrelevant and I've never personally dealt with it… until now.
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So, unlike the line that is pretty popular in this group, Google in fact DID NOT ignore the spammy links like people claim, in fact, they counted them, and then when they were removed it triggered an "authority" signal in the algo sending you back to the bottom of the list to rebuild trust. A disavow file, in the beginning, would have prevented that bounce after removal because you've already sent the signal to the algo that links were considered by you as bad thus when they were removed, there would haven't been a bounce.
It takes a while for them to ignore the spammy links. It's how PBNs and many link builders make money. Send a ton of crap links to a site, the traffic goes up in the short term, sell links from that site because it looks healthy. Google catches up after a period of weeks to months, and the traffic tanks, but by then the crap link sellers already have your money and have moved on, and most clients will never go back and check the health of those links they paid for months ago. Google will ignore them, eventually. So it's "sort of" correct that they ignore them.
If Google ignores spammy links it would never count them. Your answer sort of sounds like bs.
Colman » Clint
Of this was true, how the hell do you counter the inevitable of hundreds of spammy links a month with half of those links going away every other month.
Seems to be the trend I see for every site that hits around 5-10k a month traffic
I'm in markets that live on spam and generating millions of visitors a month imwith links most SEO users are too scared to consider, heavy on all the types of links people credit with Google ignoring, guess what its not. This image is a perfect example, had those links not been removed, it would still be ranking with those so called ignored links
Sascha » Clint
So you say never dissavow? 👀
Clint » Sascha
Nope, I disavow all the time, your experience with links and knowing patterns is what will increase your ability to do that more effectively.
Verity ✍️ » Clint
This is what I was thinking too obviously, but in everything I read from Mueller and Ahrefs, and other authorities on the subject, disavow isn't necessary since Penguin 4.0 and up. Because supposedly, the algorithm is good enough after that point to not need to disavow. But what I am seeing here is that this was clearly not the case. Obviously.
Kristine » Clint
Yeah Google's full of it I had a site that's a major billion dollar e-commerce brand ranking for p0rn in the four slot because of 13 million Russian p0rn links. They didn't discount them at all. I went and did a disavow to remove them.
Fortunately the site had so many links it didn't hurt it.
S. M. Fahim
That's a negative SEO, and I was thinking about it last day. As Clint said, if you had a disavow file, you would have been saved.
Not sure how to recover from it, but if you're not using Silo structure for internal linking, give it a try and see if that works
There may not be a "save" even from a disavow. If Google gave them ranking "credit" for the crappy links, then rankings went down when they were removed, further "removing" them with a disavow won't help. A disavow only helps if you are penalized for bad links, not if you lost a ton of spammy links that were helping you to some degree. In this case if you don't have a penalty for bad links the only solution is attracting a ton of links that Google counts as "good".
Verity ✍️ » Woods
So just to clarify, rankings were for whatever reasons not changed at all when the links happened. The keywords that were in positions 1-3 were already in positions 1-3. For almost 2 years. There was no change. The change happened when they all got removed instantly. So it appears they leveraged a loophole in the "protection" afforded by the algorithm against docking a site for spam links. That when the links get removed en masse, in short succession, the algorithm doesn't catch it, and it still ends up hurting the site. This is what I experienced.
Hence him replying "if you had"
You had a very good amount of time to make a proper disavow file on that. Looks like 4-5 months. Spam links and dirty traffic will always give you the burn. You are back on your true link traffic course and you are trending up. Your rank was false imo.
Hi Cory … As for false ranking, that's actually not the case.. This site was ranking well between Jan 2019 and May 2021. Which was far before the spam links ever happened. Was ranking 1-3 for several, several keywords. For two years. Until this. I hope that helps. As far as disavow, everything I read from John Mueller, Ahrefs, Mo and others, had stated that the algorithm had this handled and there was no need to disavow. This is obviously not the case. But I didn't know that. Especially since technically the links did not hurt the site initially. UNTIL they were dropped. This is the aspect of my post that I was most curious about. I hope that clarifies. I also wanted to shed light since John Mueller called this sort of thing a "Meme" and that it wasn't real after Penguin 4. I wanted to share with people that it is in fact very real and share my case study.
Guys Think carefully… If spam links could do anything, what is the point of spending money on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This is a great point and it's the type of discussion that I think needs to be had. I think that:
1. We need to prevent disinformation about the reality of Negative SEO. Authority sources such as Google's John Mueller have denied its existence and impact.
2. We as SEO users need to be aware of the techniques and tactics that could affect our sites and client's sites. So we can be proactive about it.
3. I think this awareness could provide even more value for SEO users since most business clients don't have time to be this vigilant about monitoring backlinks etc. Nor would they know how. That's not their job. So it adds more value to our ability to know how to handle these types of situations.
Disavow spammy links, Build a GMB and Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (EAT)